Asus ROG Phone 5 unveiled: An unmatched mobile gaming experience

Asus officially revealed the Asus ROG Phone 5 today, calling it “The ultimate gaming smartphone” and it’s hard to argue against that claim.

The hardware alone might convince you of that bold statement. From the 144Hz Samsung AMOLED display to the Snapdragon 888 processor and 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM, the phone is a performance machine. 

But flagships like the Galaxy S21 Ultra offer most of that power; it’s the rest of the design and the unbelievable software customization options that will convince you that the ROG Phone 5 is uniquely designed to showcase the best mobile gaming has to offer.

Asus ROG Phone 5 specs

Asus ROG Phone 5Asus ROG Phone 5 ProAsus ROG Phone 5 UltimateDisplay (resolution, refresh rate)6.78-inch AMOLED (2448×1080, 144Hz)6.78-inch AMOLED (2448×1080, 144Hz)6.78-inch AMOLED (2448×1080, 144Hz)5G support?Yes, Sub-6GHzYes, Sub-6GHzYes, Sub-6GHzCPUQualcomm Snapdragon 888Qualcomm Snapdragon 888Qualcomm Snapdragon 888RAM12 or 16GB of LPDDR516GB of LPDDR518GB of LPDDR5Storage256GB UFS 3.1512GB UFS 3.1512GB UFS 3.1Rear camerasTriple camera; 64MP, f/1.8 main; 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide; 5MP f/2.0 macroTriple camera; 64MP, f/1.8 main; 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide; 5MP f/2.0 macroTriple camera; 64MP, f/1.8 main; 13MP f/2.4 ultra-wide; 5MP f/2.0 macroFront camera24MP f/2.4524MP f/2.4524MP f/2.45Video capture8K 30fps, 4k 60fps and 1080p 60fps8K 30fps, 4k 60fps and 1080p 60fps8K 30fps, 4k 60fps and 1080p 60fpsBattery capacity6000mAh (65W charging)6000mAh (65W charging)6000mAh (65W charging)ColorsPhantom Black or Storm WhiteGlossy BlackMatte WhiteSize6.1 x 2.7 x 0.36-inches6.1 x 2.7 x 0.36-inches6.1 x 2.7 x 0.36-inchesWeight8.39 ounces8.39 ounces8.39 ounces

Asus ROG Phone 5 design

The briefest glimpse at the back of the ROG Phone 5, even without the branding, would give it away as an ROG device to anyone who has used one of the company’s recent gaming laptops. It carries some of the angular design over from the likes of the ROG Zephyrus G14, particularly in the Storm and Matte White color variants.

That’s before you get to the ROG logo or ROG Vision light on the back of the phone, which vary slightly between models. The standard ROG Phone 5 includes an RGB color-changing light on the back that can display dot-matrix designs. The ROG Phone 5 Pro and Ultimate add an actual PMOLED display that Asus is calling ROG Vision to the back, which can display notifications, animations and more. On the Pro, this is full color while the Ultimate uses a monochrome display.

At 6.1 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches, the ROG Phone 5 is one of the thicker phones released in recent memory, but that was a deliberate choice by Asus to allow for better airflow and a large battery. Lending credence to some of that space being for airflow, the ROG Phone 5 isn’t considerably heavier than the Galaxy S21 Ultra at 8.39 ounces compared to 8.08 ounces.

Now we get to a few of the truly unique features of the Asus ROG Phone 5 design. You have USB Type-C ports on both the side and the bottom of the phone, ensuring that you can stay charged up without having a cable get in your way. The 3.5mm headphone jack also makes a return with a built-in HyperStream II Quad DAC to deliver outstanding audio performance for those that still prefer wired headphones.

The front-facing speakers also have been upgraded on the ROG Phone 5 with symmetrical stereo speakers.

(Image credit: Asus)

Finally, the AirTrigger system for those who are unfamiliar gives gamers sensors on the exterior of the phone that remap to buttons on the screen. This allows you to game without blocking your view even if you don’t have a discrete controller. With AirTrigger 5, there are now nine sensors on the exterior of the ROG Phone 5 that can be mapped to up to 14 touchpoints. The Ultimate bumps this up even further with two more capacitive sensors. Use the AeroActive Cooler 5 and you also gain two extra physical buttons for up to 18 touch inputs. 

Asus ROG Phone 5 display

The Asus ROG Phone 5 features a custom 6.78-inch FHD+ Samsung AMOLED display with HDR10+ support and a blistering fast 144Hz refresh rate. Users can choose between 60Hz, 120Hz, 144Hz or Auto to balance performance needs with battery life. Touch sampling is also off-the-charts fast at 300Hz to ensure the phone is never slowing you down.

In our testing, the display slightly underperformed its claimed 800 nits of brightness at 748 nits but outperformed its claimed DCI-P3 color gamut at 127.6% versus 111%. The display is protected by the new Corning Gorilla Glass Victus, which is what we saw on the Galaxy S21 lineup.

Asus ROG Phone 5 performance

While the Asus ROG Phone 5 won’t be overtaking the iPhone 12 Pro Max in smartphone performance, it does manage to outclass the similarly specced Galaxy S21 Ultra.

The Asus ROG Phone 5 now stands alone atop our benchmarks when it comes to Android phones with a Geekbench 5 multicore score of 3,672. It also narrowly took the lead in the Wild Life 3D Mark test at 35 fps and in the Adobe Premiere Rush video transcoding test at one minute flat. 

(Image credit: Asus)

None of this should come as a surprise, of course; the ROG Phone 5 is purpose-built to deliver the best performance possible out of these components. The re-engineered vapor chamber allows it to stay cooler for longer and that’s before incorporating the snap-on AeroActive Cooler 5 fan that will offer dramatically more cooling and also adds to AirTrigger buttons along with a kickstand and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Asus ROG Phone 5 cameras

One area that the Asus ROG Phone 5 certainly cedes to other flagships is its cameras. The triple camera array found on the back is akin to what you would find on an upper-midrange phone. It’s perfectly adequate, but not anything that stands out.

The primary camera is the Sony IMX686, which is a 64MP f/1.8 wide-angle. The secondary is a 13MP f/2.4 ultrawide and finally a classic mid-range option the 5MP f/2.0 macro. 

Video capture is a bit more impressive with 8K up to 30fps and 4K at up to 60fps, but there’s no question that this just isn’t a primary focus for the ROG Phone 5. We’ll be interested to see how it actually holds up against some of the competition as we begin our review.

Asus ROG Phone 5 battery life and charging

Given the incredible power of the Asus ROG Phone 5, you would hope that it doesn’t skimp on battery and you will not be disappointed. The 6000mAh battery is one of the largest we’ve seen in a mainstream smartphone.

That’s not even the best news; the phone is using the same dual-battery strategy that we first saw with the OnePlus 8T last year so the 6000mAh is, in reality, two 3000mAh batteries, allowing for incredible 65W fast charging. 

(Image credit: Asus)

In our benchmarks, it reached 44% in just 15 minutes and 70% in 30 minutes. 

Battery life was quite good as well, holding on for 10 hours and 27 minutes even at its full 144Hz setting in our test, which involves constant web browsing over cellular at 150 nits. Turning the refresh rate down to 120Hz bumped this to 10 hours and 53 minutes while dropping all the way to 60Hz pushed it to 12 hours and 23 minutes. 

Outlook

The Asus ROG Phone 5 isn’t going to take over the smartphone world, but as a niche device for dedicated mobile gamers, it is an absolutely singular and remarkable option in the market. 

Particularly with the rise of game streaming services that open up new worlds of games to mobile gamers beyond what’s available in Google Play. Put simply, this phone is uniquely suited to giving you a fantastic mobile gaming experience on the go. The cameras are likely to be your biggest trade-off when compared to a more traditional flagship like the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but from both a pure performance and gaming standpoint, there is no other Android phone that will outclass the ROG Phone 5.

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